Did I Do That? Part 15

Did I Do That? Part 15

The Brecilian Forest is a breath of fresh air and just because most of the Nature of the Beast questline takes place outside.

I never want to say that games need to be shorter. Too often a game might not have enough content to be worth the standard $60. Or worse, all of the price justification is in the multiplayer mode which does not cater to me at all. Granted most of the games I play on here I have gotten on sale so I have no complaints, but those who buy at regular price, you want a lot of content. Sometimes that game has to last you months. I know I sucked all of the life out of games growing up and in college. I borrowed Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga from a friend in middle school and beat it approximately fourteen times.

But if you’ve been following my progress through Dragon Age: Origins, you know I vacillate between intrigue and fatigue. I become enamored with a new area but get exhausted after trekking through similar tunnels, caves, and magical lands for hours on end without any convenient way to take a break from the monotony. This final push to collect enough allies to take on Loghain was the most balanced main quest I have done so far. You start off going through two sections of the forest looking for information about the werewolf curse and searching for Witherfang all upon Zathrian’s request. The two areas are just big enough that it feels like the wild but not so large that you can’t backtrack back to camp or leave the Dalish elves behind entirely if you want. For example, a few sidequests I had to do were out in the forest, and I wanted my reward sooner than later. After killing some bandits and looking at some tombstones, I was able to leave the forest and go to other parts of Ferelden for some gold and equipment. At the same time, I didn’t do this more than a couple of times because I wasn’t tired of the trek yet.

After you battle through the woods, you get to a set of ruins—but once again only two separate areas. And am I damn glad for that. There are multiple loot holes full of gems and silver to sell. Finding one topped my inventory off, and with this area’s set-up, it was not a ridiculous idea still to back out and sell off my goods. And still nothing here took me too long. After finding the Lady of the Forest, I thought I was going to have to go back to camp to find Zathrian to fulfill her request, making what I did only a small leg of the journey. I can’t say how many times in Orzammar I thought the campaign for king was almost over when they through a new area or task or favor at me. But in a twist in both gameplay and story, he was there waiting for me despite not claiming to know anything about these ruins and where to find the Lady of the Forest and Witherfang.

After bring him back with me, the quest concludes with a battle. No loose ends. No final requests. Nada. Taking out the extra wandering and backtracking I did by my own choice, I think this quest took me five hours tops. This is radically different from past ones where you hit double-digit hours even if you blitz right through. And as you might be able to tell already, my two problems with the Circle of Magi and Orzammar quests are:

  1. Repetitive and similar areas.
  2. Overstay their welcome.

The first complaint is definitely hard to work around. When playing in the underground city of the dwarves, it doesn’t make narrative sense to have anything look too different from other areas. But this shows it is possible in some cases. I can play around outside and then enter the ominous and wrecked structure that houses the werewolves. As for the length, there is no reason that all of the quests needed to be as exhaustive as they were. I am all for their attempt to show and not tell the story by forcing you to infinitely chase what you are looking for instead of merely being told about it. Instead of finding Branka earlier in the caverns, you must keep delving deeper because that’s what she did in her desperation to find the Anvil of the Void. Following her step for step gives you an idea of how far she was willing to travel for what she wanted—something much more meaningful than a Codex entry. I just wish it could have been more interesting. The conversations and choices between Zathrian and the Lady of the Forest made as much of an impact with a complex dialogue set.

Hey, at least I can applaud Bioware’s attempt and willingness to tell the story using a multitude of different strategies. Now off to the Landsmeet with all of my new allies. Stay tuned.

Did I Do That? Part 13

Did I Do That? Part 13

I kid you not: the only information I found about the enemy AI is how to fix it.

Considering the game has been out for five years now with a wonderful PC version (I’ve experienced next to no problems with the exception of the occasional crash), it only seems right that it has a thriving modding community. This is an area I have no experience with, so I am not going to pretend to be an expert; enemy AI is mainly mentioned with modders though.

When looking for information that is found in the actual game, all I found were reports of bugs but nothing detailed about why the enemies make the choices that they do. There was nothing that meta-gamers extrapolated and figured out as a guide to enemy AI (or I just didn’t see it. Feel free to let me know if it exists!) All I really found were thousands of threads discussing the enemy’s programming and how to make it better. Granted I do not fall in the majority of people I found who were looking for more of a challenge. One of the main complaints is what I pointed out earlier—that most enemies have no sense of self-preservation; the only class that tries to heal itself are mages. For those who are stellar at the game’s combat, this definitely takes the difficulty down a notch. There is a Nightmare-Plus mod (link?) that adds to the variety of enemy attacks and boosts.

What I would want is a mod that added more information to my codex. I want to be able to analyze my enemy as if it were a JRPG. I have played so many turn-based RPGs—most recently Bravely Default—and the depth I get out of the game has to do with being able to hone in on who I am fighting. I sit there and learn their strengths and weaknesses, attack patterns, and breaking points. Because of the number of enemies in Dragon Age, and the real-time style of combat despite the ability to pause, it makes it hard to do this. I do learn with each death who is the most vulnerable in my party, but I do not learn the same about my opponent. I might learn which attacks are more effective from their positioning, but when it comes to the finer details, it is a guessing game, making me take the ham-fisted approach of using the strongest attacks from each party member.

And I’m not going to lie—over the last few weeks, I have felt a bit of cognitive dissonance between my enjoyment of the game and what feels like a consistent criticism of it. I did hear something today though that makes me feel validated. While listening to the newest Co-Optional Podcast at work today (if you haven’t checked it out, please, please do.), the first Dragon Age was brought up with the newest installment in the series being released. Two people—one who had put over one hundred hours into the game, and one who could never get into it—were about to agree that some segments of the game are long-winded. This makes me feel better about these dueling feelings I have where I enjoy the gameplay but am still constantly wishing for a part to be done. All it took for my change of heart this past week was for me to enter a new area. Suddenly my sense of wonder and wanderlust was renewed because my sense of repetition was gone.

Now off to those dwarven caverns to do some of that renewing. Stay tuned.

Did I Do That? Part 12

Did I Do That? Part 12

Note: This post was delayed because I wrote it at work instead of doing bureaucratic things and then forgot to send it to myself. Here it is and expect my regular post later today.

I might have yet to dive into controlling my party member’s AI, but I sure wish I could control the enemy’s.

Let’s say you are a big, bad monster who lives in a dank cavern. You have nothing to do all day but hide random loot in chests and craft your own weapons for self-defense. Why? Because adventuring travelers are constantly wandering through your home hoping to take all of the belongings you safely put in a crate with a pickable lock. So of course you get angry. Who wouldn’t? Then you see them not just in your front yard but in your living room, so you pull out your war axes and crossbows and start defending your property. Unfortunately your intruders have the audacity to come armed and prepped to fight back. Two heavily-armored stocky warrior-types surround you and your family and start swinging at you. How would you react?

A. Lift your shield and protect yourself.
B. Fight back to protect yourself.
C. Run all of the way across your land while you continue to be attacked just so you will hopefully find their healer.

In case you haven’t guessed already, two of these are human reactions, and one is an AI reaction. This is a common case of in an effort to create compelling game mechanics, the AI drifts away from reality. Now this is totally fine. I’m not even fighting humans, so why would I expect them to react as so? Instead these fantasy races must have tactical genius in their genetic coding.

Now the more I come to accept how important strategy is in this game, the more I wish I could analyze enemy AI in the same way I can my own. I have trouble setting my party members’ combat tactics because I am not great at deciding a best overall strategy. What I can do is encounter a battle, die a couple of times, and learn from it. Then I go in and make certain members go on the defensive because of the enemy’s strength. I can make my mage use area-wide spells because the enemies move in groups. I know I need to keep my rogues out of the line of fire because backstabbing is not a viable option. This means that if each enemy race had certain traits and I knew what areas of Ferelden they populated, it would make determining a strategy more feasible for me.

Disclaimer: for all I know, this exists somewhere deep in the game’s Codex or on a forum in the corner of the internet. I might go look after this actually and write about it later. That is if there is anything to report of course.

Stay tuned for my answer or lack there of.

Did I Do That? Part 11

Did I Do That? Part 11

I think all it took to renew my interest was to vent my frustrations and feelings of impatience with Dragon Age.

After writing yesterday, I jumped head-first into the politics of Orzammar, the underground Dwarven city. Here you can follow two quest paths depending on who you wish to support in the upcoming election of the new king. You have two options:

1. Harrowment–he was asked by the king on his deathbed to take the throne according to the Codex. Though technically the more honest politician, he is a proponent of continuing the dwarves’ caste system (details below).

2. Bhelen–he is your typical sneaky politician. His first task asks you to deliver two promissory notes to Harrowment’s most powerful supporters. Taking it to the right merchant in town though clues you in to the fact that the documents were forged. Despite his conniving methods, he is far more progressive in his platform, perfectly willing to do away with castes.

The castes here are about as restrictive as they come. You are born into a class and have no clear means of mobility. Marrying up (or down) is not even an option. Husband and wife retain their lineage and pass it on to their same-sex children–fathers to sons, mothers to daughters. This means that a brother and sister’s lives could easily go on two different trajectories-in polar opposite directions.

As someone who hates being told what to do without at least the illusion of choice, I obviously sided with Bhelen. I don’t like his tactics but love the extra experience from the Deep Roads and the possibility of a more united Ferelden. I already feel for the imaginary plight of the my character’s elf race, so I hate the idea of an entire race isolated underground without it being a unanimous decision of the people secluded there.

Luckily the game allows me to be a flip-flopper. When researching which candidate to back (every vote counts!), I saw that no matter the questline you follow, your final decision is the only one that determines who is put into power.

Now off to be schooled in backstabbing. I’m hoping literally as well if Zevran will cough up his secrets about how to be an assassin.

Stay tuned.

Did I Do That? Part 7

Did I Do That? Part 7

Is the combat system in Dragon Age: Origins bad, or am I just bad?

Rhetorical question in case that wasn’t clear.

Honestly I know I’m bad. Besides making sure all of my party members use the Cautious tactic, and making them all fight as Archers, I don’t know how to keep them alive. I finished playing through the sidequest of “The Urn of Sacred Ashes,” and, in a fit of pure frustration, played half of it on Casual mode. Worse—I still died repeatedly. I went in and read the descriptions for the different modes and found out what might be my problem. This is what I found:

  • Casual difficulty is best suited to players who are new to role-playing games or expect to play combat in real-time, rather than pausing often to plan tactics.

I’m used to the blurb for Casual, or Easy, modes basically saying it is meant for people who new to games in general. I went into this game feeling I was prepared for the genre, and that has turned out to be far from the truth. For all of this time, I have not really thought about how this game’s combat is not in real time. Out of habit, I even furiously right-click to attack even though it has zero effect. It is so unlike anything I have ever played before, and the game does not do much in terms of teaching you how to take advantage of the fighting style. I do not get how to utilize the Combat Tactics slots or any customization. I only trust my party members if I am the one controlling them. Otherwise they run off into battle and don’t bother to protect or heal themselves.

The fighting has so much to do with positioning, and that is not my forte. I don’t know if you would consider it an RTS-style of battle, but the fact is resembles it in any way might be my problem. I have played my fair share of turn-based strategy and real-time tower defense games but none from the RTS genre. At least now I understand why this game has a Pause option outside of pulling up one of the ten or so possible menus; you can dish out commands while paused, something I never thought to do until it popped up as advice on a load screen.

Sidenote: this game’s load screens are the most helpful I have ever encountered. Sometimes it is a bit of repetition about the same piece of lore, but often it mentions small tidbits that passed me by. For example, I either was never told or forgot (my money’s on forgot) that I could equip two different weapons for each character; it suggests one melee weapon and one ranged. I was practically rolling around on the ground in excitement for the space this cleared in my inventory. Another time I saw how I can adjust the game’s difficulty temporarily which–in case you couldn’t tell—has saved me quite a few times now.

But no matter the convenience, I hate the feeling playing on Easy. After each battle I beat this way, I go and create a new save file, hoping I will eventually go back and beat it on Normal for the sake of my conscience and my ego. Hence my desire for research and improvement considering how much more of this game I have left to go. I already picked up on obsessively saving through trial and error, but that is not working for how to be a good fighter.

Mainly, I need to look into:

  • Combat Tactics
  • Customizable styles
  • Automated Healing

I will look into this and let you know what I find tomorrow. Stay tuned.

P.S. I am participating in Blogging 101 and am psychic. I would love to rewrite a post I have already done stating what my blog is about, but, well, I’m lazy. You can find my already-existing post that fits the prompt here. I hope to meet lots of you through this!

Did I Do That? Part 6

Did I Do That? Part 6

Or better known as a saga of distraction.

I originally started following up on my treaties by journeying to Redcliffe to talk to the Arl. After arriving, a guard lets me know that not only is the Arl dying, but a curse has fallen on the village, causing zombie-like monsters to attack the village. They would even rise from the ground during the day if anyone tried to escape. You’re asked to help protect the village through the night which is simple enough. The sheer number of enemies is where the real difficulty lies. Even though you have the entire town’s militia helping, they seem to get killed almost immediately. Stupid civilians.

It gets more difficult with the game’s glitch I encountered twice. A cutscene of a memorial service for those who died is supposed to trigger after defeating all of the enemies. If you let Murdock or Tomas die while fighting, sometimes the enemies just keep coming one by one after defeating the horde. It’s clear that something is off because after all of the enemies are gone, I go around and talk to the surviving characters, and they tell me to protect myself. Give it ten seconds and one poor mutant creature wanders down the mountain as if he overslept for the night shift of terrorizing and murdering the locals. After twenty minutes of this I went to look up what I needed to do to finish the game and found out it is a common bug. The only way to fix it is to reload the game. Luckily I had saved between the two phases of battle, but considering the difficulty of the second fight, it was hard to take this advice calmly.

Finding out the bug’s trigger gave me a goal for the next try–keep the two named and semi-important people alive. Too bad they are so useless that at least one of them–usually Murdock–is already dead by the time I make it down to the campfire to help; instead I fight off zombies while trampling all over this empty robes. Frustratingly the same thing happen again. At least this time instead of wandering up and down the mountain looking for something to do, I immediately reloaded again. I didn’t even bother to protect anyone the third time and luckily made it through to the end. Apparently there is a strategy where you can try to keep everyone alive, but it’s not worth it. Maybe if I already had Wynne and could use healing powers, but for now for the sake of time and the safety of my computer, I only have time to be selfish.

After this, I was so frustrated that instead of venturing up to the castle to save everyone else, I started exploring Ferelden and looking for sidequests. I went to Denerim, the village right outside my home alienage, and found more questlines than I know what to do with. There is the Chanter’s Board like before, the Mage’s Collective, the Blackstone Irregulars, and even a category called “Favors for Certain Interested Parties” (you can guess those are the less moral ones). Each has four or five and many ask you to leave town. I went around the newly opened back alleys of Denerim looking for fights and trying to collect different potions and mushroom for the various. um, interested parties, certain and otherwise. The funniest–or absolutely horrible and disconcerting depending on who you are–were where I kept running across dead bodies that needed to be disposed of down a well. Hopefully Timmy from Lassie is out of there now, or his home is about to get much more crowded.

What I really enjoy is how while finishing up a more in-depth quest, the game runs you across a smaller delivery or fetch quest so that you can multitask. While fighting the bandits all over the town, I was also able to deliver death notices to unknowing widows and mark the houses of blood mages. It triggers that same feeling I mentioned earlier about cleaning out my inventory but much more understandable. Instead of being potentially wasteful in the name of greed and over-preparation, here I just feel accomplished.

Apparently not all of my party members have the same adventurous spirit as me. I took Sten to the village of Haven to try to find out more about Geniviti’s research, and he was too happy with me ignoring the world’s impending doom. He tried to stage a coup and fought me. I somehow managed to beat this giant–who is suddenly a lot harder to kill when I’m doing it–and instead of dying, did agree that I was awesome and got back in line. I knew he was a murderer by nature, but this was still a bit unexpected.

Now with all of this exploring, I have discovered two things–one good, one questionable. Let’s start with the good.

In a lot of games with any kind of open world element, I tend to focus on getting from one place to the next instead of looking where I’m going. I abused the Clairvoyance spell in Skyrim just to make sure I could fast-travel to more places. No matter how much I loved its expansive world, I only wanted to get to the dungeon or town. Here life truly was about the destination and not the journey.

But in Dragon Age, I love walking around and seeing everything. The more I play, the more I realize that a lot of assets are reused but the events you can come across if you’re paying attention. As a reward for getting an unruly crowd to leave a local tavern, a knight thanked me without giving me much of anything. I was a little confused but didn’t think too much of it. I’d been amassing gold quickly with smaller quests anyway. But walking past him again later, I saw him moving around a little and heard him call for me. Seriously, he noticed and called me over. Then he gave me a sovereign for my trouble. I have trouble thinking of a game I’ve played where I feel like I am truly that present in the world. If you know of another though, let me know because I’m really digging this new concept.

Now for the questionable. This game is full of invisible walls. They aren’t so bad that I can see entire inaccessible areas, but if I’m walking down a path that is slightly raised up from the ground, I have to follow the trail all of the way to the end. I play as a rogue who is lithe on her feet and yet I can jump off a six-foot ledge. It is a small complaint, but with how much walking there is–and how much I actually enjoy travelling–I want to be able to take the straight-path instead of following a clearly marked path. I wouldn’t even mind if it took the approach that happens in games that have a lot of platforming and cause me to lose some health if I fall from too high up.

Now off to see if I go back to helping the world, or trying to earn more gold than I know what to do with. Stay tuned.

Did I Do That? Part 5

Did I Do That? Part 5

I have to say, I am kind of glad to start writing more often for the next month. This game is so expansive, I have trouble getting all of my thoughts into one post. Half of this one is going to cover what I got sidetracked from and didn’t write about on Monday.

Lothering—you know that town I mentioned before I went on a post-long tangent about the romance system? The one that feels like a tutorial but I never mentioned why?

If you talk to the different villagers, you will get a lot of sidequests that feel like they are there solely to teach you. I had different people asking me from traps, poisons, and potions—all things certain party members can make. As a rogue, I luckily already had the poison-making skill, and Morrigan had herbalism to make the health poultices. You then have to look around the outskirts of town for the items you need or—if you are a hoarder like me—you will already have the herbs and containers you need. If you really don’t want to go searching, you can even buy some parts from the same guy who wants you to make him poisons (which I really do hope he plans to use for self-defense like he says). What I loved was having a woman named Allison asking me to make her traps and having to tell her I didn’t know how. Then I immediately walked away and leveled up to learn how, and went back and told her I knew now! How convenient!

Ever read Go Dog Go?

“Can you make me traps?”

“No, I cannot make you traps.”

“Goodbye.”

“Goodbye.”

Repeat for emphasis

“Can you make me traps?”

“Why yes, I can make you traps.”

“Thank you. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye.”

Nothing changed on the outside except my opinion. I was glad to be able to go back after learning, but for how realistic this game tries to be, it felt extremely…game-y.

Even with how odd acquiring the quest lines here were, I love the crafting element of the game. Despite being simplistic, I get a great satisfaction from putting the things I find to great use. Like I have mentioned many a-time before, I am a RPG hoarder, but it feels so good to be able to empty my inventory in a useful way. Instead of having the destroy all of the random bits of food and herbs I pick up–or sell it for next to nothing–I can turn what takes up multiple item slots into a consumable I desperately need. It gives me that same relief I get when crossing off a to-do list or finishing all of my leftovers before they get moldy.

And I do enjoy how this game approaches sidequests. The game doesn’t go overboard, keeping me from ever following the main questline. Way back when Skyrim was my main time sinkhole, I would spend hours wandering the mountains, going through caves and dungeons for the smallest quests, not even bothering with the main sidequest stories. Then I would come across ten more things to do before I ever finished what I was working on. I loved how expansive the game was, but it was hard to feel like I was making a dent in the world—not to mention nobody thinks differently of you no matter how many dragons you kill and people you save. But that’s a whole other complaint.

Here there are just enough to make the village feel alive. In Lothering, there is a board outside of the Chantry with requests much like a bulletin board at the local coffee shop. Here was a request from the officials to clear out the lurking bandits looking to profit on Ferelden’s increasing misfortune. I went out and found them and killed them and got my reward. What made it fun was the difficulty. The bands of robbers swarm you and have a large variety of fighters. They have must as many archers and ranged fighters as they do melee, making you have pick a strategy to survive. I died countless times from pure impatience, wanting to take these ten or so criminals head-on. Amateur tip: fight with the ranged tactic every single time. Slow and steady says the tortoise and the frustrated Dragon Age player.

There is one thing I wish I had realized a little bit sooner. When I bought this game, I got the Ultimate Edition with all of the DLC since it was deeply discounted. Too bad I didn’t notice until well into the game that all of these extras installed with the base game. For example, as I kept exploring the romance system, I found a bunch of incredibly specific, free gifts at the merchant’s shop. Without thinking any harder than, “FREE FREE FREE,” I brought them all over to my inventory and started doling them out. Abruptly Morrigan was so upset with me she wanted out of the party and Alistair, one of the members who is supposed to be the hardest to romance, wanted to go straight to the tent. Apparently these ultra-powered gifts were free in the game because I bought them with real money. They are part of a DLC bundle that give sthe player free gifts geared towards quickly speeding up and slowing down relationships. I have never been more grateful that I save about every other minute.

I also set out on my first real story mission after getting to my party’s camp before realizing it was another piece of DLC. It was a fun quest, giving me loads of backstory on the downfall of the Grey Wardens in the public’s eye, but it was not how I wanted to be spending my time. Instead of following up on those treaties that sound like manuals on how to prevent the apocalypse, I followed a white bunny named lore into a four-hour long rabbit hole.

At least now I’m off the Redcliffe to give Alistair a happy reunion. Can you hear my hopeless optimism coming through? Yeah, this game is teaching even me to give that up as soon as humanly possible. Stay tuned.

Did I Do That? Part 4

Did I Do That? Part 4

So it might have taken roughly fifteen hours, but I have finally reached the real start to the game and the story.

After Morrigan the mage–a witch from the wilds, an apostate–joins your party, you set off to try to get help to defeat the archdemon and the darkspawn. Alistair has the treaties stating loyalties to the Grey Wardens from different parts of Ferelden. Finally the game opens up, the near-apocalyptic world is your oyster but first–go through a town.

Your first real stop after your main heroes’ call to action is a small village called Lothering. Plenty of refugees have found their way here with little more safety than a bridge and some cobbled-together walls. Even the bandits have leaked through to the outskirts of town not to mention giant spiders. Weirdly this town feels like a self-contained tutorial. The significance of the Origins subtitle is pretty clear from the start. When I play RPGs, I tend to go for in medias res–no prologues, all confusion. Throw me in the deep end and let me spend fifteen hours working out what happened instead of spending just as much time playing out some of the more mundane parts of my character’s life. I can definitely appreciate the depth it gives and making the choices that land me where I am, but now that I am onto the main quest, it feels a little cheap in retrospect. No matter what move I made, Duncan would have still recruited me to the Grey Wardens, and Alistair and I would still be the only surviving members. Here I am still mourning the death of my cousin back in my alienage and no one alive knows the hand I played in his execution. Hell, it doesn’t even come up in personal party conversations. Whenever I’m asked about home, I only am ever prompted to mention my parents and whether or not I’m an orphan–nothing more.

And since this first choice, I have yet to feel like anything is life or death–merely a popularity contest. My plot decisions affect my present members’ opinions of me and the likelihood of me getting into bed with them. But then, since this game with an incredibly shallow romance mechanic forces me to value love and be faithful, I guess I only ever need to be concerned about one person’s opinion. I do like that there are other benefits to positive relationships because after spending a couple of hours at camp experimenting with this system, it isn’t too enthralling. If you do get a high enough relationship with a character, they receive passive stat bonuses. I love this because so far when it comes to the character I control, I only ever use myself or Morrigan (I can’t resist the spells, damn it). So since I typically let the rest of my party members roam free, giving them the ranged tactic to try to keep them safe–hey, they can’t say I don’t care.

Also, do you want to know the only other main way to increase someone’s love, friendship, or approval–whichever you prefer? Gifts. Not special, thoughtful gifts. Just random shit you find on the ground and or steal from locked chests. Each character does have their preferences, meaning there is a whole strategy on who to give what, but honestly, I overload one character with riches until they love me enough to become stronger and move on.

None of these things bother me though bccause I have a dog in the game who loves me no matter what and all is right with the world. I can pet him, love him, and even be him if I need to explore my animal instincts. If you brought a wildflower back from the wilds for the kennel master before you took part in the Joining, this nameless Mabari war hound comes and finds you. You can choose to keep him and name him and walk him and feed him and change his newspaper and…let him die in battle?

Eh, no perma-death, no problem.

I named him after my dog, Cooper, and spent a good hour frolicking him while the real Cooper poked his nose and my elbows and toes, wishing I was playing a point-and-click so I had a free hand. You can even make him wear a cone of shame.

So here I am playing a game where you can spam pretty girls and handsome men with trinkets and statues until they will shed their armor with you in your tent, and I can’t stop dressing up my dog. Priorities, my friends, priorities.

Now I have a question for you readers out there. Last year I finally won my first year of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, if you didn’t know) after trying for over five years. I was considering going for a second win but had a thought. What if instead of writing a novel that I will print out and immediately hide from the world I make content for my blog? Instead of only doing these weird written let’s play/first impressions/critiques, I would do small op-ed pieces and even research posts. For example, I would look into gaming terms that I have always made assumptions about before realizing that I never knew what they meant, e.g. horde mode.

Are you interested in this kind of content? They would be daily updates of varying length. I probably won’t aim for a word count as much creating variety.

Let me know in the comments! If there is something you would love to see me write about, go ahead and suggest it. You do not want to leave me with all of the power, or I might spend a month posting photos of Cooper the war hound. Choose wisely and stay tuned.

Did I Do That? Part 3

Did I Do That? Part 3

Better known as the blog where we rename bosses to better make jokes, i.e. orc=ogre.

Yesterday I took my first sick day from work and my first sick day from my blogs. Apparently days-old restaurant leftovers are only a good idea for your wallet, not your digestive system. But after spending eighteen hours in bed on Wednesday, I’m back!

Luckily I did manage to beat our friend the ogre with an identity crisis–granted it is one I imposed on him for comedic purposes. And you know what? Trial and error doesn’t even begin to cover it.

First I tried to do exactly what the Internet told me to do–give everyone a bow and force them to attack from far away. Here I made a miracle happen and got the ogre down to so little HP I couldn’t even make it out on the health bar. I decided that it was so little I could go into hack-and-slash mode and hit him head-on until he died. Ha. Ha. Hahaha. Too bad he interrupted my first attempt to heal. And then this was the closest I got to winning for an hour. Hahaha. Ha.

I did discover that using my character as bait was one of the best strategies. If I could get the ogre to follow me around, I could stay far enough ahead of him that I wouldn’t get badly wounded while my party members attacked him from across the room. I put on the heaviest armor I could–one of the best ways to attract enemies–and ran around like a blind goat in a thunderstorm. Unfortunately he wouldn’t consistently follow me. This strategy would work from the start half of the time, and, most of the time, I would accidentally run too close to my party, causing him to focus on them instead. No matter how much I danced around and threw acid at him, he still wanted to hurl rocks and smash everyone else. Then all I could do was try to switch to these characters and prolong their deaths as long as possible. If I switched to a party member the ogre was already focused on and tried the distraction strategy, he would forget who I was. And after all the time we spent together…

But really, I don’t know which it is–a prejudice against victims who can think for themselves or a fetish for AI.

I really hate admitting this, really I do, but the only way I won was atrocious–switching to easy mode. In my defense, my goal is to finish the games and be able to write about my progress. Keyword: progress. I even considered a post where I described my attempts in detail, but my turns stopped varying much after the first few. I either used archers, tried to distract him, or died too quickly to use any strategy whatsoever. Of course I turned the difficulty back to normal–oh, what a challenge!

But of course, sadly I was right. After winning the fight, everyone I had ever met died except for the people who saved me. Hopefully this means I am at the part where I get know people besides my silent character and Alistair, your typical faithful knight as far as I can tell.

Stay tuned.

Did I Do That? Part 2

Did I Do That? Part 2

Or better known as the prequel to Orcs Must DieOrcs Can’t Die.

So far I’m convinced that everyone I come into contact with is going to die. Anytime one of my party members hasn’t been able to gain experience, they end up dying in the plot. On my way to the Tower of Ishal, a mage and a tower guard joined me without even bothering to tell me their names (stranger danger) and help me fight to the top of the tower. But no matter what they do, they gain zero experience for what they do so their tragic deaths must be coming immediately after hearing their backstory–seriously, they’re complete strangers.

Also this is the confession of a RPG hoarder. Back in my Skyrim days, I bought a house entirely for my dragon bones and took every flower and animal skin that was within five hundred yards of me. Here I can’t seem to manage my inventory. My journey to the top of the Tower of Ishal is what I consider the first real story mission, not one made up of exposition, character motivation, and tutorials. This means there are loads more items to loot from chests and dead guards. Sadly I can’t use them as quickly as I can steal them. You wouldn’t think you would be full this soon but surprise!

Typically when I know it is a weapon I won’t use–which in many other games is clear right away–I sell it or break it down for its parts. Here though I keep holding onto everything because I don’t know what strategies I will really want to use. For example, right now I am really glad I didn’t sell off my extra short bows because after failing against the orc at the top of the tower multiple times, I looked up a strategy that suggested all ranged weapons. It’s instances like this where I feel as if selling something lowers my chances of winning the game.

Well, that really is the mentality of a hoarder, now isn’t it?

Here I also want to make sure I have something that fits the strengths of all of my party members. It doesn’t even do me any good to look up the party lists online because I still don’t know whose missions I will complete and who I will enjoy playing with the most. And with my luck, each mission is going to be best played with certain people, meaning I can never stop carrying around this pack full of longswords and roots.

The system is odd though. Here you are allowed seventy kinds of items. This means having twenty health poultices is the same as having only one. This took me a while to figure out, opting out of picking up small crafting items I already had when, really, I could have picked all of them up and then some. I also destroyed a dagger when trying to make room, figuring I had two and didn’t need them both. Hopefully some guards at least stepped on the shattered pieces of metal. Wait, you mean matter can actually turn into thin air in this world? Wish I could use that for more than not littering when emptying my backpack.

This also means that while I was fighting the mission’s end boss–which I still haven’t managed to do–I was trying to make room in my inventory. Whenever I used up one kind of health poultice, instead of freaking out, I was happy that when the battle ended, I would have that inventory slot back. And I wonder why I keep losing.

Now by Wednesday, I should have at least beaten this stupid beast if not finally reached a second real party member. Keep your fingers crossed and stay tuned.